Benny Sela's Escape / The Whole Land Is Afraid

Friday night, we went to a friend's house for dinner, and en route, we heard the 8 P.M. news. From the radio report, we understood that all of Tel Aviv is terrified: No one enters and no one leaves. And for us, too, danger awaited at every corner of the darkened road. She clutched my hand, and I stroked her arm. Only together could we survive the difficult days ahead.

Did we really need the rapist's leap in order to reveal the Israel Police in all its nakedness? Did we really need this Benny Sela, who drops his pants in order to catch our police with their pants down? For anyone who did not yet know, now you know: This is not, thankfully, a police state; it is, disastrously, a no-police state. It sometimes seems as if cardboard cutouts at the crossroads have more deterrent effect than the policemen themselves, whose presence is missing.

Since Ariel Sharon went into a coma, there have not been this many talkbacks on Internet news sites - about 2,000 per site. That is what happens when people fall asleep on guard duty, and thousands of citizens wake up from their sleep and see the reality of their lives as it is: frightening.

Now they will say "How shocking!" and they will demand that heads roll, and another commission of inquiry will be set up. And until the rapist is caught, or until the next scandal - whichever comes first - the affair du jour will feed the wolves. The police commissioner will lavish explanations and the responsible minister will look grave; and the weary Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz will enjoy a temporary respite.

Had Sela not escaped, they would have had to invent his escape. Instead of Public Security Minister Avi Dichter telling the three how they should stop the Qassam rockets, thereby improving our external security, they will tell him how dangerous criminals should be arrested, thereby improving our internal security.

It is not just Katyusha rockets in the North and Qassams in the South; even the safe and apathetic center has now received its portion of dread. The whole land is afraid. The bubble has finally burst, and Tel Aviv's fate is like that of Kiryat Shmona and Sderot. Even the big city is now maddened with its own fears.

This is Tel Aviv's day. We will remember this day, and also those who inflame the hysteria so that it does not die down quickly. Only thus will we escape for a few days from the real threats - and that will be our gain.